Growing a human ear on a rat

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Sometimes, people are born without body parts or lose them in terrible accidents, so it’s not unusual to see people walking with plastic limbs. The plastic parts are actually becoming so life-like nowadays, that it’s getting a wee bit harder to spot the differences between the fake limbs and the artificial ones. Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston just made it way tougher. You see, they managed to use cow and sheep cells to make human ears!

What? How did they make a human ear from animal cells? Okay, the ears weren’t actually human, they were just shaped to look like them. The researchers took some of the animal cells and put them inside an ear-shaped mold. After the cells grew into it, they looked and bent just like the ones on the sides of our heads.

While it’s one thing to grow an ear, it’s a totally different thing to keep it alive. How did the scientists manage to do this without a real body to attach the fake ear to? Actually, they did use a real body! It’s kind of gross, but the doctors took the ear and implanted it to the back of a rat to see how long it could last. Even after twelve long weeks, the ear maintained its shape and flexibility.

The researchers hope to move away from rat bodies and onto human subjects. I just hope they put the darn thing in the right spot, because it would be kind of weird to see people walking around with extra ears on their backs!